Foolproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious

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Reading this book at the request of another pastor, who blamed it for some problems his church, was going through, I was fully prepared to run into a hornet nest of strange and dangerous teachings. I was pleasantly surprised to find this not to be the case. That is not to say that there were not a number of aberrant teachings and thoughts scattered throughout the book, but for the most part they were the normal ones that are found in almost all evangelical publications of this type. There were verses taken out of context or misinterpreted (Jere. 29:11-14 on pages 19, 76 and 189; Romans 8:26,27 on page 175; Luke 8:22-25 on page 183; Luke 4:30 on page 184). And of course a little psychobabble (self-image on page 36; dysfunctional family on page 100; a secular rather than biblical understanding of forgiveness, page 170-171). Throw in a little mysticism in the form of God speaking to Christians (page 75), and voila! you have your typical Christian self-help book with a solid mixture of truth and junk.

Of a more serious nature is the distinct possibility that this work will encourage people to pigeonhole others, many of who may not be fools at all but simply folks with shortcomings, just like us. As a matter of fact, one illustration would have needed a scorecard to determine whom the real fool was (page 150). But once the “fool” label sticks the author’s next piece of advice is truly troublesome. Based on the belief that it is impossible to change a fool (page 125), the author instructs the reader to not try, but rather, detach and even separate from the fool if possible. This was the area that had my pastor friend in turmoil. Some in his church had decided that certain individuals who were struggling spiritually were fools, so they refused to try to minister to these “fools” since it was hopeless. Of course this leads to an even more fundamental issue in Foolproofing, that of self. The author is far too concerned with what is good for us at the expense of what is good for our “fool’ (see page 187). I believe the biblical question would be, are we helping or harming our “fool” by the actions we are taking? It may very well be best for both ourselves and the “fool” to detach, separate, or give up efforts to minister to them. But we must be careful not to jump to that conclusion too soon, and we must recognize that Philippians 2:3,4 is not rescinded even for fools. Things really get serious when married believers are given permission, based on I Corinthians 7:10,11, to separate from their spouse if he is a fool (pages 176-177,190,220). And finally the author’s understanding of Scripture is suspect when she boldly declares that a fool cannot be a Christian (pages 206ff).

With all of these problems I would be hard pressed to indiscriminately recommend a reading of Foolproofing. And that is too bad because I believe Silvious is on to something. The Bible does identify fools, and it does give us instructions on how to deal with them – instructions that are often ignored by both individuals and churches. A good understanding of these matters, mostly from the book of Proverbs would be a welcomed addition to our lives and ministries. Perhaps it would be possible for the discerning reader to use Foolproofing as a launching pad to develop a more biblical approach to this subject.

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